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Tuesday Overreaction: The Detroit Lions defense is doomed

This is going to be a long road to recovery.

Syndication: The Post-Crescent Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin via Imagn Content Services, LLC

We’re two weeks into the Lions season and it’s time to get really scorching hot with our overreactions. After two weeks the Lions have been a weird team to watch. It’s been this cocktail of knowing it’s a rebuild, hating everything that’s happening, knowing the road back to the playoffs is a long one and a strange confidence that everything is going to be alright.

While there is genuinely room for some optimism, it’s on the offensive side of the ball. The defense, on the other hand, looks about as bad as ever. In 2020, the Lions fielded the worst defense in franchise history. There was some hope that in 2021 there would be nowhere to go but up, but that hasn’t been the case.

The Lions have allowed 76 points thus far. That’s second only to the 80 points the Atlanta Falcons have allowed. There’s a reason for this. Detroit’s roster is incredibly young on defense, and many of these players wouldn’t find their way onto a 53-man roster elsewhere. They’re also suffering from injuries, especially in the secondary where Jeff Okudah is out for the season and Ifeatu Melifonwu is going to miss some time.

It doesn’t get much better with the old guys. The linebacking corps is full of veteran players who are looking like they’re nearing the end of their careers. Jamie Collins has had a rough season so far, and he just plain looks slow out there. Alex Anzalone may be the worst linebacker in the NFL right now. Pro Football Focus currently has him graded out at 29.7—third worst in the NFL. Ouch.

The defensive line showed that they can get to the quarterback on Monday, but other than those few moments, they’re getting pushed around by offensive lines and running backs are having field days. It looks like a cake walk for opposing offenses.

There was some hope that a new coaching staff would fix things. But right now, it’s a talent issue. The Lions are suffering from the previous regime’s poor drafting on the defensive side of the ball, and this regime did next to nothing to pick anyone up that could help them immediately.

Going forward, the Lions schedule doesn’t look any easier. They have Lamar Jackson and the Ravens and Matthew Stafford and the Rams right around the corner. It could be a very long season. On top of that, it’s going to be a very long road to correct this.

Why it’s an overreaction

There’s a lot of truth in this week’s overreaction, but there’s a lot of season left to reverse this. I don’t think the Lions can completely reverse the trend and have the best defense in the league or something close to it. Right now the baseline is just show some improvement and figure out who is going to be on this team as the rebuild begins to hit its stride. Right now I can only think of a handful of guys who are going to stick. The rest is completely up in the air.

Luckily for the Lions, just as there are some upcoming games that will really test this defense, there are some upcoming games that Lions defenders can show what they can do. Games against the Bengals, Bears, Vikings and Eagles should allow the Lions defense to at the very least get some reprieve after having to deal with the league’s top quarterbacks and offenses. It may still look very bad, but some guys may stand out enough to give fans some confidence towards the future. Speaking of the future, the Lions have one. They have plenty of draft picks and they’ll have money to spend in 2022. While the road may be long, it gets easier as it goes.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.